home Arts & Literature, Europe, Movies, North America LFF 2014 Dispatch No 2: Fishing Without Nets, Flow and Jamie Marks is Dead.

LFF 2014 Dispatch No 2: Fishing Without Nets, Flow and Jamie Marks is Dead.

Expanded from Cutter Hodierne’s own short film of the same name, “Fishing Without Nets” is the flipside of “Captain Phillips.” Hodierne explores Somali pirates from the point of view of honourable young father Abdi, desperate to escape the grinding poverty of his beleaguered country. Abdi continues to fish and try and uphold his dead father’s ideals, “A man is not a man until he can feed his children. Only death can stop me feeding mine.” Time and time again his nets come up empty, stocks depleted from illegal fishing by foreign trawlers. His friends chew khat and brandish AK47s amongst the trash and filth, they ask him when he will, “Stop all this fishing nonsense?” Abdi hates his plight and pays smugglers to take his wife and son into Yemen. Heartbroken, Abdi makes his inevitable deal with the devil in order to join his beloved family-a choice ending with one of the most powerfully disturbing shots witnessed in contemporary cinema.

Abdi’s odyssey is a bruising, poetic encounter filled with tragedy, desperation and paranoia. Hodierne continually cuts to Abdi’s internal dialogue revealing a deeply philosophical soul quietly wrestling with the global catastrophe that is slowly eroding his spirituality. Here Hodierne channels Terrence Malick rather than Paul Greengrass but his handling of the hijack and the subsequent unravelling of the hostage situation is pure adrenaline filled cinema. In a week when another Western hostage has been executed “Fishing Without Nets” is a chilling reminder of how these pawns are traded between various groups. In one terrifying scene a French hostage is bartered for when the pirates realise the ship they have captured is virtually worthless, their only chance of a payday now seems to lie with the extremists.

Poverty is relative and in the wake of “Fishing Without Nets” the hardship witnessed in Danish rap movie “Flow” is brought into sharp contrast. Talented MC Mikael has grown up on a multicultural housing estate far removed from the white majority in Copenhagen. His best friend Tariq, a petty criminal and dreamer, is part of his local rap crew but is more interested in blowing his money on girls, booze and drugs rather than investing in new equipment that might actually get them their break into the industry. A chance meeting with old school rapper Apollo divides the introspective Mikael’s loyalties-should he take the money and ghost write Apollo’s lyrics or stay true to Tariq and his roots? Mikael’s girlfriend tells him to go for it but as the money, parties and groupies start to roll in with his success Mikael is slowly seduced by Apollo’s hedonistic lifestyle.

Visually and sonically “Flow” has a vitality that drives a well-trodden narrative forward in some style. First time director Fenar Ahmad makes expert use of slow motion, especially in a tense nightclub sequence that seals the jealous rift between Apollo and Tariq in their battle for Mikael’s affections. The electronic beats carry along lyrics that paint a surprisingly violent picture of the Danish police, a force that preside over one of the lowest crime rates in the world-are Nordic Noir and American hegemony to blame for this perception? What really gives “Flow” its heart is Kian Rosenberg Larsson’s (real life rapper Gilli) soulful central performance as Mikael making the movie more “La Haine” than “8 Mile.” When he raps we listen and when he acts we watch mesmerised but the questions remain; is another white guy showing the ethnic minorities how superior he is in their medium offensive? Or has rap music become so homogenised after the overrated Eminem took the throne that we couldn’t care less anymore?

Meanwhile in the cold industrial wreck of an American town we find out that “Jamie Marks Is Dead.” In the age of the high school massacre the population couldn’t really care less as Jamie was a loner only recognised when he was being bullied at high school. When his classmate Gracie finds Jamie we feel like we are back in “Twin Peaks” and “River’s Edge” territory, a murdered teenager punctuating snowy banks by the river and a mystery that might never be fully resolved. Cross-country champion Adam, another troubled loner saved from Jamie’s torment by his athletic prowess, soon joins Gracie in her genuine sympathy for their dead acquaintance. The young couple’s sorrow soon turns into a deeper melancholy on Adam’s part as Jamie’s ghost begins to appear frequently offering friendship.

In America young males are five times more likely to commit suicide than their female counterparts. With this sobering statistic in mind Adam’s deepening relationship with Jamie begins to feel like an extended suicide attempt as he slowly divorces himself from the living. While this is genuinely affecting the homoerotic undertones of their friendship seem clumsy, not necessarily a problem as teenage awakening is often embarrassing and fraught with pitfalls, but when Adam pulls back from Jamie and has sexual feelings for Gracie is the film in danger of accidently reinforcing an homophobic agenda where a homosexual relationship is lethally morbid and a straight one righteous to the point of learning to live again? The final scenes are genuinely heart breaking, the direction suitably moody and the acting from the young leads excellent but we’re left with a nagging feeling that even the most sensitive teens would rather prefer Jamie, not only dead, but also defiantly buried.